Iowa Supreme Court Holds State Trooper’s Administrative Action Not Exclusive Remedy

Posted on: August 26th, 2019

Larry Hedlund began working as an Iowa State Patrol Trooper with the Iowa Department of Public Safety in 1988.  He was promoted in 2010 to special agent in charge (SAC).  Starting in January 2013, Hedlund began circulating emails critical of his supervisors.  During June of 2013, an internal investigation was conducted on Hedlund.  The investigation concluded on July 17, finding “multiple acts of insubordination.”  Hedlund was terminated that same day.  Hedlund filed a petition in district court alleging wrongful discharge in violation of public policy and violation of Iowa Code chapter 70A.  Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment and the district court granted the motion, dismissing Hedlund’s entire case.  Hedlund appealed, and the Iowa Supreme Court retained the appeal.

On appeal, Hedlund argued the district court erred when it determined judicial review following the administrative process was the exclusive means to seek redress for alleged retaliation against a whistleblower.  Second, he argued the district court erred by denying his age discrimination claim.  Third, he disputed the district court’s finding of no “outrageous” conduct sufficient to support his tort claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The Iowa Supreme Court concluded section 70A expressly creates an independent cause of action in the alternative to administrative remedies under Iowa Code chapter 17A.  Thus, the Supreme Court reversed summary judgment on this issue.

Regarding Hedlund’s age discrimination claim, the Court affirmed the district court’s decision holding that he failed to present sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could infer age discrimination to be the true basis of his termination.  Lastly, the Court affirmed the district court’s determination of Hedlund’s claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress, finding that none of the defendants’ conduct was sufficiently egregious to satisfy the “outrageousness” prong.

Larry R. Hedlund v. State of Iowa, et al., No. 18-0567 (Iowa June 28, 2019).

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